While our feline friends are often natural models of poise and grace, some of them can turn into giddy kittens just by getting a sniff of catnip.
So, what is catnip? And what about it drives cats crazy? Are there health benefits or side effects? There’s a reason why your cat loves this fascinating herb and there’s plenty of ways you can help them enjoy it.
What is Catnip?
Catnip or Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb from the same family as peppermint and spearmint. It’s native to Europe and has sturdy stems with white and purple flowers. Although it potent as a fresh plant, most cat toys contain a type that has been dried and ground into smaller pieces.
The main ingredient in catnip is called nepetalactone, that stimulates certain brain chemicals related to mood and happiness. This sense of euphoria has been compared to that of a hallucinogenic drug on humans.
What Happens When My Cat Has Catnip?
Some cats react differently than others when it comes to catnip. Some cats may react to the plant by rolling around, flipping over, and generally being hyperactive, and some won’t be affected at all. This “high” usually lasts between 5-10 minutes but can last as long as an hour. Kittens, however, aren't sensitive to catnip. Only cats 3- 6 months old and older react to its odour.
Health Benefits and Side fffects
Besides making your cats extra relaxed and happy, catnip has additional health benefits. If your cat is the type who prefers naps over a feather wand, catnip can be a good way to encourage play and movement. For anxious cats, it can reduce stress in unfamiliar settings.
Although catnip is completely nontoxic, some cats may have an adverse reaction. If your cat eats a large quantity of fresh catnip, they may experience some vomiting and diarrhoea. The best course of action when trying catnip for the first time is to give a very small sample to your cat and see how it responds, then go from there. Depending on your cat’s reaction to catnip, you may choose to control the amount given or avoid it altogether.
How Should I Give it to My Cat?
Catnip toys are usually the most popular way to administer this herb to your feline friend. However, a classic choice is dried catnip which you can sprinkle on anything from toys to scratching posts. You can also try growing fresh catnip. Just remember that the fresh kind is much more potent than its dried counterpart, so less is more when it comes to entertaining your cat.
Given the positive effects that catnip may have on your cat, you owe it to yourself and your feline friend to see how they react to this magic herb. Not only will it be entertaining for you, it will also provide fun, enjoyment and exercise for your cat.